Local Advocate Christopher Lee seeks seat on Venice Neighborhood Council
By Nick Antonicello
VENICE – Activism heavily grounded by integrity can best sum up the diversified talents and skill sets of Christopher Lee, one of 37 candidates seeking one of 13 seats as a Community Officer for the Venice Neighborhood Council come March 26th.
Stakeholders have until March 7th to apply for a ballot or simply vote in-person on the 26th.
For more voting information visit www.venicenc.org
Lee proved himself to be a take charge activist as he stepped up last December to formulate an elections plan that is being used as a template in this year’s campaign and outreach.
Christopher Lee is compassionate about Venice be it his cleanup campaigns or his work on the VNC’s Outreach Committee, where he helped man the board’s booth at the annual Holiday Sign Lighting event sponsored by the Venice Chamber of Commerce.
He is a man with diversified interests and skill sets, a person not afraid to do the volunteer work most don’t notice.
For getting the job done is what drives Christopher Lee.
A work horse versus a show horse.
Describing himself as a “signature event designer,” Lee has served in multiple capacities as a freelance senior producer, production manager, technical director, marketing coordinator and director of events and sponsorships according to his professional profile and resume. Bilingual, Lee has a strong computer skills and is a member of the Rotary Club of Santa Monica.
Chris took the time to answer some questions as to his personal advocacy and activism here in Venice and why he believes he’s truly a man for all seasons.
- Tell us about yourself. Why are you interested in seeking election to this volunteer post of Community Officer for the VNC?
My name is Christopher Lee and I moved to Venice in 2020, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving to Venice has been a long term goal of mine and, upon moving here, I realized that I had arrived at the community I call home. As such, it became, in my point of view, a necessary thing to engage in the local community – creation of Venice Community Cleanups and volunteering for the VNC Outreach Committee are how I’ve chosen to engage. As I’ve participated in the VNC, it became apparent how critical the conversations the VNC are, and how limited an audience we have with our community, thus my desire to seek election and expand the conversation.
- You worked hard to ensure an election process was put in place for this election. Why did you do it and do you have any advice for those administering this process?
As a member of the Outreach Committee, it seemed logical to me that election outreach should be done to engage as many stakeholders in the community as possible. As I looked into the election outreach efforts, it occurred to me that we, as the VNC, were not actively seeking and engaging our community to vote – there was resistance to who would take accountability for the election outreach and the ball was passed between multiple parties as time to the election dwindled. Standing for our community and for having all our stakeholders informed in a timely manner and able to research and vote for candidates, I took it upon myself to create an election plan that was passed through the Board. Now, as our election administrators partially implement the plan, my words of advice are: the best way to be effective in reaching our community is to plan ahead – additional spending to compensate for a lack of planning is a disservice to our community and should not be taken lightly. I’d also urge our current election administrators to look at and respond to the concerns expressed during Board meetings and social media – frankly that their efforts so far have been off the approved plan and ineffective, and that they are promoting incorrect information about what a Neighborhood Council can take on.
- What is the role of the VNC? What tangible results are you seeking should you be successful?
Any Neighborhood Council within Los Angeles acts as an advisory body to the City Council. Ultimately, we are the boots on the ground that LA City needs to get an accurate read on what neighborhoods want and need.
As for tangible results, my goals are simple and three fold: 1.) to increase engagement from our community during Board meetings by at least a 100% increase, 2.) to reduce friction with our community (as measured by a reduction in the number of combative/argumentative statements made from both the public and the Board during Public Comment), and 3.) to create an environment of collaboration, connection, and efficacy in our communications with our community (as measured by a reduction in comments from the Public about feeling under/uninformed and by an increase in unanimous sentiment for motions expressed during Public Comment).
- Does politics play a role in your responsibilities as a VNC board member?
When elected to the board, my personal politics will not play a role in my responsibilities as a VNC board member – it is the duty of a VNC Board member to represent the community and to act in accordance with the people we represent. Thus my personal politics are not the concern – the concern is driving a constructive dialogue in which stakeholders are heard and can come to an agreement. My opinions to be expressed during Board Comment will be informed by logic and my listening of the community, not my personal politics.
- What do you believe are the three things you want to focus on as a Community Officer?
As a Community Officer, my three main focuses echo the tangible results I seek of the VNC. Namely 1.) increased community engagement, 2.) reduction of friction during Board meetings with our stakeholders, and 3.) the creation of an environment of collaboration, connection, and efficacy during our meetings. Achieving these goals will be done through continued Outreach and de-mystifying the NC system so that more community members feel at ease in suggesting agenda items or navigating how motions work, connecting deeply with our community organizations (such as the Venice Chamber of Commerce, EVNA, the Abbot Kinney Merchant Association, etc), and making myself available for any community concern with a promised response time of 72 hours.
- Currently we elect 13 members as Community Officers, but stakeholders only get to vote for one candidate. Would you endorse or support to reform this woefully absurd selection process?
I am in support of reforming this selection process. I understand that this measure was put in place to promote diversity in the Board and it occurs as limiting as many known and passionate community members run for these positions that are deserving of votes. I would stand for limited reform such as selecting 3 of 13 officers so that voting in a Community Officer does not occur to stakeholders as an all or nothing choice.
- You currently serve on the Outreach Committee. How has that experience impacted the way you would approach serving on the VNC?
My experience of the Outreach Committee is that we have a lot of great ideas that are mired in a lack of clarity about how to proceed and that also are not supported by data determining how effective our Outreach efforts have been. These two points drive parts of my intention to be on the Board – both point to a need for transparency in how the Board operates, so that we can facilitate smooth communication between committees, from community members, and during Board meetings as well in a need for accountability, where we can track measured results from any VNC effort to report to our community where our time, money, and energy is being spent to support Venice.
- CD-11 has a new councilmember in Traci Park. How does that change or influence local neighborhood councils and it’s members?
My experience of the last CD11 election was that it was a contentious one – a lot of negative campaigning was done and it has me skeptical of the stand that our council member has for Venice. The negative campaigning has, in my opinion, also emboldened some Board members into disrespecting each other and our community in bold breaches of decorum. This is not to say that I don’t have faith in Traci Park and her office – a lot of the community that I am connected to see her as a refreshing break from our former council member and are looking forward to her actions in Venice. This sentiment of her being helpful may encourage effective conversations between Venice and CD11 in a manner that has the goals of Venice met in an expeditious manner.
- Are you supporting a candidate for President of the VNC?
- What are three (3) things you want stakeholders to know about you before they cast a vote?
The three things that I would like stakeholders to know about me before they cast a vote are: 1.) I am here to listen, whether that is to your concerns about people experiencing homelessness, about how the Board currently operates, about the traffic issues we have… I want to hear it all as you are the community I am out to represent; 2.) I am learning – being a new resident to Venice means that I do not know the long histories of some of the issues here in Venice. I am always seeking education on the issues that impact us and gladly welcome your input so that my votes are informed and balanced; and 3.) that I am driven by metrics – I want to demonstrate to our community that we are effective as a Board, whether that is in measuring qualitative things such as public sentiment or quantitative things such as email captures during an event – it is my intention that I can always provide evidence and data to you to demonstrate that you are heard, that your community’s money is well spent, and that the Board is representing and supporting the voices of Venice.
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the March 26th VNC biannual elections. If you’re a candidate and want to be interviewed for this column, contact me at email@example.com with a cover letter, resume/profile and color headshot.